Guide to Gluten-Free Flour Mixes
If you think about how most people bake with wheat, you’ll realize that they usually use two different kinds of flour: an all purpose flour for cakes, pies, muffins, and other pastries, and a bread flour for baking bread. I decided very early on that I wanted my gluten-free baking to mimic wheat baking.
As a result, my recipes are carefully calibrated to use just two flour mixes: the Brown Rice Flour Mix (my all purpose flour) makes cake, pie, muffins and cookies that look, feel and taste like those made with wheat, and the Bread Flour Mix (my bread flour) makes crusty, chewy artisan loaves and tender sandwich breads.
Few people I know have large amounts of time to bake, much less to grab for four or five different flours every time they do; even fewer have room to store multiple flour mixes in their cabinets. Once I became a gluten-free baker, I wanted to have only two big flour containers in my baking pantry, just like I did when I baked with wheat.
Brown Rice Flour Mix
Brown rice flour (extra finely ground) – 2 cups
Potato starch (not potato flour) – 2/3 cup
Tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) – 1/3 cup
Total = 3 cups
It is very important that you use an extra finely ground brown rice flour (and not just any grind) or your baked goods will be gritty and heavy. Authentic Foods in California sells the only powdery-like-wheat brown rice flour I can find on the market (other than in Asian grocery stores). Authentic Foods brown rice flour is stabilized to increase shelf life and sealed in a high quality bag that is light and air resistant. For me, it has proven to be the “hands down” winner in repeated blind taste tests. It may look pricey, but not when compared to the price of buying ready-made gluten-free cakes, muffins and cookies that are often of a lesser quality than those you could make at home. I strongly believe that the high quality rice and very fine grind of Authentic Foods will make a big difference in your finished product.
Authentic Food’s (e-mail and phone below) flour can be ordered online or purchased at select grocery and natural food stores. Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur brown rice flour tie in second place for grind size, and King Arthur is also stabilized. Arrowhead Mills brown rice flour has a big grind and is gritty (although I use their millet flour all the time.).
The potato starch and tapioca starch in the flour mix above can be found in grocery and natural food stores and online. In my opinion, the brands are fairly interchangeable. If you use potato flour in my recipes by mistake, you will be able to make a muffin that you can throw against the wall —and it will stick there for eternity (well, a few days, at least).
Authentic Foods also makes the above Brown Rice Flour Mix already made up under the name GF Classic Blend. Although I do not financially benefit from the sale of GF Classic Blend, it sure is nice to just be able to open a bag of flour and bake.
Some of my recipes occasionally call for “sweet rice flour” which helps give certain baked goods a softer, more delicate texture. Only a small amount is ever used at a time because too much results in a denser, tighter, gummy product. I recommend Authentic Foods sweet rice flour because it is finely ground.
Bread Flour Mix
Millet flour – 2 cups
Sorghum flour – 1 cup
Corn starch – 1 cup
Potato starch (not potato flour) – 1 cup
Tapioca starch (als0 called tapioca flour) – 1 cup
Total = 6 cups
My bread flour mix is made up of whole grain flours and starch flours in a ratio of half to half; a combination of millet, sorghum, corn starch, potato starch and tapioca flour. Millet and sorghum (both whole grain) are used to help vary the taste, improve nutrition and provide structure to the dough and help keep the loaves fresher than gluten-free breads made of all starchy flours. When it comes to bread, a large grind makes a good loaf. I typically use Bob’s Red Mill and Authentic Food’s sorghum and Bob’s Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills millet. The starches help lighten the texture and improve mouth feel. Together they make a sandwich bread that is much like homemade wheat bread in terms of texture and density.
For information on weighing the flours to make the mixes above see the post on this blog: What do the flours in your flour mix weigh?
How to Purchase and Store Gluten-Free Flours
Brown rice flour, millet flour, sorghum are whole grain flours and must be stored carefully. The mixes (above) can be stored at room temperature for about four months. If your house is hot and humid, or if you will not be baking for long periods of time, store them in the refrigerator. Store open packages of brown rice flour, millet flour, sorghum, in the refrigerator.
Purchase all these flours from local natural food stores, some grocery stores, online sellers that have a lot of turnover so you can be sure you are getting fresh packages. And do not purchase them too far in advance of when you make the flour mixes (more than four months for millet and sorghum; Authentic Foods is so well packaged that it is shelf stable for longer periods). When you open a new bag, make sure it does not have a strong odor, an indication that it is rancid or old.
These flours should have a pleasant grainy, nutty smell. Millet flour in particular, tends to get rancid if it is old or not stored properly by the distributor, at the store or in your home (just like whole-wheat flour).
Both open and unopened packages of potato starch, tapioca flour, and corn starch should be almost scent free when opened. They can be stored at room temperature for about a year. They can be purchased in advance of when you will be using them to make the flour mixes.
Very infrequently, there have been reports of “sour” tapioca flour being mistakenly packaged in regular tapioca flour packages. Be aware that tapioca flour does not have a sour taste or smell. Also infrequently, there have been reports of off-smelling, stale potato starch. Potato starch is almost tasteless and doesn’t really have a strong smell. If it tastes moldy or sour, take it back to the store.
How to Measure and Mix Gluten-Free Flours
- To measure flour for making flour mix: use a soup spoon to spoon flour from package into the measuring cup, or pour flour or from the package into the measuring cup, then use a knife (or even the handle of the spoon) to level the top. Do not scoop gluten-free flours out of the package with the measuring cup. Empty measured flours into a plastic container large enough to leave four to five inches from top. Shake container vigorously to mix flours. I usually make 12 cups of brown rice flour mix at a time and store and shake it in a 21 cup Rubbermaid container.
- To measure flour for use in recipes: Shake container vigorously to mix and aerate flours. Use soup spoon to spoon flour from container into the measuring cup, then use a knife to level the top. Do not scoop gluten-free flours out of the package with the measuring cup.
Bob Red Mill
King Arthur Flour Company